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Chicago native Jennifer Hudson may have placed seventh on American Idol, but she soon made a name for herself with an Academy Award for her role in "Dreamgirls" and starring in "The Secret Life of Bees".
Jennifer Hudson broke her silence on the horrific murders two years ago of her mom, brother and young nephew, saying prayer, family and friends helped sustain her in the aftermath.
"It's all a blur, it was surreal," Hudson said on the VH1 special "Behind the Music: Jennifer Hudson" Monday night. "It was like I was outside of myself."
Prior to the show, the Oscar and Grammy-winning singer and actress had kept quiet about the brutal slayings of her mother Darnell, brother Jason and nephew Julian, allegedly at the hands of Hudson's brother-in-law, William Balfour. It was hard enough to come out of total seclusion in the days following the Oct. 24, 2008 slayings.
"For almost two weeks straight . . . [I was] inside one room with just family and friends coming in and out," she says. "I prayed when I'd get up in the morning and prayed before I laid down at night."
The Chicago-born entertainer, whose career was launched when she competed on "American Idol" in 2004, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her film debut in the 2006 film "Dreamgirls." She later won a Grammy for her 2008 debut album, "Jennifer Hudson."
Hudson made her first appearance following the murders when she sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, 2009. Weeks later, she barely addressed the murders until the 2009 Grammys, where she performed a poignant, moving rendition of "You Pulled Me Through."
"I was definitely thinking of my family when I was singing that song," she said on the show. "I could hear my brother in my head, like, 'Jennifer, you need to kill this, you need to get up and do it.' I knew he would be disappointed if I didn't do it justice.
Hudson, who underwent a dramatic weight loss and is now a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, has found new hope in her engagement to David Otunga and their 11-month-old boy.
David, "reminds me of my nephew," said Hudson, adding that the memory of her own mother inspires her as a parent. "In so many ways I channel her because she was such a great mom."
David "makes me feel like the most special person on earth," she said. "I want him to get the same love and the same upbringing my mother gave us."
Balfour is awaiting trial for the murders.